[Geez, maybe next time I should just read Newarama BEFORE I post...]
Comics ate his brain? I don't think so! Wise Tom at CAMB tackles the pink elephant in the DCU's living room. As the DCU moves forward in time, some of its characters are stuck with one foot in the past. Let's join Tom in looking at the problem.
DC's principle on-going characters roll up their pasts behind them. Take Two-Face. When Harvey Dent was first scarred by acid, there was a plastic surgeon who could have helped. Why didn't he? Because he was trapped behind Nazi lines. Don't hear that one any more! Luckily, with most characters, their histories are broad enough that they have no trouble with a floating "ten years ago" as the beginning of their careers.
But the DCU is starting to show "generational strain". The original JSAers have one foot nailed in World World II and so, unlike their colleagues, can't "roll up" their pasts behind them. "Rabbit tricks" help: magical energies, Ragnarok, blah blah blah. But think about how old Ma Hunkle must be, or Molly Scott or Joan Garrick; 80, 90 years old, gang.
Thanks to some creative writers, the history of the JSA's original run neatly parallels the real-world history of comics. Their world, our world. In the '30s, mystery men emerge and form the JSA; superhero comics, including the JSA begin. In the '40s, the JSA helped in WWII and was in its prime; the JSA and similar characters were at the peak of their popularity. In the '50s, a post-war society lost tolerance for 'mystery men'; a post-war society lost tolerance for comic books. It's so tidy, so nicely symbolic, no one wants to let it go. But pretty soon, we (and DC editorial) need to.
Even if sufficient excuses abound for the JSAers continued vitality, the gap between them and the current generation widens with each passing year, making it impossible for their progeny and inheritors to "roll up the past" behind them. Case in point: how can Black Canary continue to be as young as she is when her mother was a crimefighter in WWII? Yeah, I know her Lazarus incident might help, but you get the point. If you continue to do that sort of '"rabbit trick", you suddenly have to admit that people like Black Canary, Green Lantern, and Green Arrow are all much older than Bruce, Clark, and Diana. Ollie's got a grown son, for pity's sake!
The original Teen Titans create a complementary problem. Batman's accumulating Robins awfully fast for guy his age. As long as there's a Nightwing, the current Robin must not be allowed to get older (and so on, for all the other characters). This is what happens when you allow not just stories but "events" like the original Robin going to college or the death of Jason Todd. You insert indelible time-markers into continuity and, as Shazam himself once said, "that way lies madness".
What's the way out? Keep your eye on the World Egg (formerly Krona, the Big Fat Blue Plumber Guy of Doom) that originated in the JLA/Avengers cross-over and was featured in the recent Crime Syndicate storyline. I have a feeling we'll be getting a whole new DC Universe.
One thing DC does need to let go of: the idea that Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman came first. The efforts made to force this idea have been heroic enough to change the course of mighty rivers, but it simply cannot work long-term. Instead of insisting that they were the first among the modern generation of heroes, DC should consider doing the opposite: make them the last. The Big Three aren't the start, they are the end, not the base of the modern generation but its pinnacle, not the seeds from which other heroes grew but the ultimate evolution of the current heroic wave.
What do you think?